Subscribe to
Opera Today

Receive articles and news via RSS feeds or email subscription.


twitter_logo[1].gif



9780521746472.png

0810888688.gif

0810882728.gif

Recently in Recordings

Gergiev’s Das Rheingold

Das Rheingold launches what is perhaps the single most ambitious project in opera, Richard Wagner’s Der Ring des Nibelungen

Hänsel und Gretel

This live performance of Laurent Pelly’s Glyndebourne staging of Humperdinck’s affectionately regarded fairy tale opera, was recorded at Glyndebourne Opera House in July and August 2010, and the handsomely produced disc set — the discs are presented in a hard-backed, glossy-leaved book and supplemented by numerous production photographs and an informative article by Julian Johnson — is certainly stylish and unquestionably recommendable.

Magdalena Kožená: Love and Longing

Recorded at a live performance in 2012, this CD brings together an eclectic selection of turn-of-the-century orchestral songs and affirms the extraordinary versatility, musicianship and technical accomplishment of mezzo-soprano Magdalena Kožená.

Once I was: Songs by Ricky Ian Gordon

Once I was: Songs by Ricky Ian Gordon features an assortment of songs by Ricky Ian Gordon interpreted by soprano Stacey Tappan, a longtime friend of the composer since their work on his opera Morning Star at the Lyric Opera of Chicago.

Amore e Tormento

Alfredo Kraus, one of the most astute artists in operatic history in terms of careful management of technique and vocal resources, once said in an interview that ‘you have to make a choice when you start to sing and decide whether you want to service the music, and be at the top of your art, or if you want to be a very popular tenor.’ 

Rivals—Arias for Farinelli & Co.

In generations past, an important singer’s first recording of Italian arias would almost invariably have included the music of Verdi. 

Verdi at the Old MET

With celebrations of the Verdi Bicentennial in full swing, there have been many grumblings about the precarious state of Verdi singing in the world’s major opera houses today.

Italo Montemezzi: L’amore dei tre re

In the thirty-five years immediately following its American première at the Metropolitan Opera in 1914, Italo Montemezzi’s ‘Tragic Poem in Three Acts’ L’amore dei tre re was performed in New York on sixty-six occasions. 

Così fan tutte from DG

Few operas inspire the kind of competing affection and controversy that have surrounded Mozart’s Così fan tutte almost since its first performance in Vienna in 1790. 

Heart’s Delight: The Songs of Richard Tauber

During his career in film, opera, and operetta, Richard Tauber (1891 - 1948) enjoyed the sort of global fame that eludes all but the tiniest handful of ‘serious’ singers today.

Adriana Lecouvreur from Decca

Known principally for its two concert show-pieces for the leading lady, the success of Francesco Cilea’s Adriana Lecouvreur relies upon finding a soprano willing to take on, and able to pull off, the eponymous role.

Lawrence Brownlee’s Spiritual Sketches

It would be condescending and perhaps even offensive to suggest that singing traditional Spirituals is a rite a passage for artists of color, but the musical heritage of the United States has been greatly enriched by the performances and recordings of Spirituals by important artists such as Paul Robeson, Marian Anderson, Leontyne Price, Martina Arroyo, Shirley Verrett, Grace Bumbry, Jessye Norman, Barbara Hendricks, Florence Quivar, Kathleen Battle, Harolyn Blackwell, and Denyce Graves.

Great Wagner Conductors from DG

As a companion to their excellent Great Wagner Singers boxed set compiled and released in celebration of the Wagner Bicentennial, Deutsche Grammophon have also released Great Wagner Conductors, a selection of orchestral music conducted by five of the most iconic Wagnerian conductors of the Twentieth Century, extracted from Deutsche Grammophon’s extensive archives.

Great Wagner Singers from DG

There could be no greater gift to the Wagnerian celebrating the Master’s Bicentennial than this compilation from Deutsche Grammophon, aptly entitled Great Wagner Singers.

Adding Movie Magic to The Magic Flute

What better way for Masonic brothers, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and Emmanuel Shikaneder to disseminate Masonic virtues, than through the most popular musical entertainment of their age, a happy ending folktale that features a dragon, enchanting flutes and bells, mixed-up parentage, and a beautiful young princess in distress?

L’Incoronazione di Poppea from Virgin Classics

Since its first performance at the Teatro Santi Giovanni e Paolo during Venice’s 1643 Carnevale, Monteverdi’s L’Incoronazione di Poppea has been one of the most important milestones in the genesis of modern opera despite its 250 years of unmerited obscurity. 

Saverio Mercadante: I due Figaro

Though 2013 is the bicentennial of the births of Giuseppe Verdi and Richard Wagner, the releases of Cecilia Bartoli’s recording of Bellini’s Norma on DECCA, a new studio recording of Donizetti’s Caterina Cornaro from Opera Rara, and this première recording of Saverio Mercadante’s forgotten I due Figaro, suggest that this is the start of a summer of bel canto.

Christian Thielemann’s Der Ring des Nibelungen

Recording Richard Wagner’s Der Ring des Nibelungen is for a record label equivalent to a climber reaching the summit of Mount Everest: it is the zenith from which a label surveys its position among its rivals and appreciates an achievement that can define its reputation for a generation. 

Cecilia Bartoli as Norma

Few people who love opera in general and bel canto in particular have never heard the comment made by Lilli Lehmann, veteran of the inaugural Ring at Bayreuth in 1876, that singing all three of Wagner’s Brünnhildes—in Die Walküre, Siegfried, and Götterdämmerung, respectively, all of which she sang to great acclaim—pales in comparison with singing the title rôle in Bellini’s Norma

Ariane et Barbe-Bleue on Blu-Ray

Paul Dukas’ Ariane et Barbe-Bleue, first heard in 1907, once seemed important. Arturo Toscanini conducted the Met premiere in 1911 with Farrar and later arranged some of its music for a 1947 recording with his NBC Symphony.

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Recordings

Richard Wagner: Lohengrin
19 Jan 2007

WAGNER: Lohengrin

These recordings prove decisively a well-known thesis: more or less realistic productions always age better than so called innovative modern productions which often only aggrandize the clichés of the time of their conception if one views them a few decades after their première.

Richard Wagner: Lohengrin

Peter Hofmann (Lohengrin), Karan Armstrong (Elsa), Leif Roar (Telramund), Elisabeth Connell (Ortrud), Bernd Weikl (Heerrufer), Siegfried Vogel (König Heinrich). Chor und Orchester der Bayreuther Festspiele conducted by Woldemar Nellson. Staged and designed by Götz Friedrich. Recorded at the Festspielhaus Bayreuth 1982.
Euroarts 2072028 [2DVDs]

Peter Hofmann (Lohengrin), Eva Marton (Elsa), Leif Roar(Telramund),Leonie Rysanek (Ortrud), Anthony Raffell (Heerrufer), John Macurdy (König Heinrich). Metropolitan Opera Orchestra and Chorus conducted by James Levine. Production: August Everding, set design: Ming Cho Lee. Recorded at the Met January 1986.
Deutsche Gramophon 073 417-6 [2DVDs]

 

This doesn’t mean that ‘the next swan’ puts in an appearance in the Everding production at the Met ( brilliant lighting does the job) but the designs and costumes transfer us to Antwerp in the early middle ages. Exact dating of the opera is even possible: between 919 and 936, as those were the years Heinrich der Vögler was German king (though to be honest, the duchy of Brabant, where this reviewer is living, only got its name some 150 years later). Anyway, the Met production’s sets and costumes are roughly apt for the period and Elsa at least, wears some robes fit for a duke’s daughter instead of the same ugly colourless night gown Friedrich and his team thought fit for the Bayreuth production. Peter Hofmann too looks far better in his fine Met costumes than in the now hopelessly dated half knight/ half astronaut plastic (or is it metal ?) he has to wear in Germany. Friedrich probably had some ‘democratic’ problems with the king being graciously attended to, and so he has the singer seated on the steps of the stairs among all the other nobles. At the Met the king gets his throne during his hearing and the scene all at once doesn’t look ridiculous anymore. Time and again one sighs at Friedrich’s solutions and with relief one returns to Everding.

The Bayreuth production, however, has one distinct advantage over the Met’s. Four years and a lot of heavy Wagner roles later have taken their toll on Hofmann’s voice. The shine of it has somewhat disappeared and there is more strain in the high register. Granted, there is more refinement and some fine piannismi phrasing too at the Met, but these don’t quite compensate for the loss of vocal strength. This doesn’t mean the Bayreuth performance is perfect. After all this is Wagner’s most Italian opera and the recordings of De Lucia and Pertile prove what an Italian tenor could do with it. I sorely miss the ‘morbidezza’, the sweetness and sensuality, a good tenor can bring to the role, and next to Sandor Konya, Hofmann pales. Leif Roar too has not improved in the few years between the two recordings. In Bayreuth he is an impressive Telramund and he sings with the dark-burnished sound apt for the role. At the Met his singing is often crude and soon becomes barking before degenerating into shouting. Siegfried Vogel too at Bayreuth is vocally more impressive than the Met’s John Macurdy, who has some flat notes. Both Bernd Weikl and Anthony Raffell (a name unknown to me) sing a sturdy and strong Heerrufer. I don’t think nowadays both houses are still able to cast this small role with such outstanding talent.

On the ladies front, however, the Met wins hands down. Karan Armstrong is rather passive and colourless compared with the bigger and more creamy sound of Eva Marton. Elisabeth Connell is a South-African soprano and therefore can more easily cope with the high tessitura of the role but she is no match for the acting and the rich secure top of Leonie Rysanek, stunning at age 60.Woldemar Nelsson is a solid Kapellmeister but already at the prelude there is an aura of magic lacking. James Levine, with his long experience in German and especially Italian opera, immediately plunges into the mystery of the score and keeps it up till the end of the opera. The Met’s orchestra and chorus too are on the same level as the Bayreuth phalanx. As often one wishes one could take the best of these two worlds but in the end Levine, Marton and the production give the Met’s performance a slight edge.

Jan Neckers

Lohengrin_DG.pngLohengrin_EA.png
Click image to buyClick image to buy

Send to a friend

Send a link to this article to a friend with an optional message.

Friend's Email Address: (required)

Your Email Address: (required)

Message (optional):